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Sometimes Looking For Ghosts have to search far and wide to get our paranormal thrills, whilst other times they seem to fall straight into our lap. I Believe In Ghosts: Joe Swash is one such example.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Joe Swash’s work, he’s an ex-soap star and recent winner of reality TV jungle shitfest, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Inexplicably, he’s become a household name in the UK, but carries the international gravitas of a parsnip.
With the greatest of respects to Mr Swash, we’re sure he’d be the first to admit that he isn’t exactly an authority on the paranormal. In fact, it’s doubtful that he’s really an authority on anything except gelling his hair into laughably abominable shapes, or wearing an expression that always looks like he’s concentrating hard not to swallow his own tongue.
Still, he’s likeable enough and his affable, cheeky shtick was enough to win the hearts of the Great British Public who voted him King of the Jungle so who are we to argue? Good luck to him, we say.
However, when we heard he had made a documentary about ghosts, naturally we rubbed our hands with malevolent glee. Regular readers of the blog will know that we take glib delight in mocking other people’s efforts, so surely poor Joe Swash would be like a sitting duck as we prepare for a brutal character assassination, right?
Annoyingly, I Believe In Ghosts is actually rather good. Not enough to convince hardened cynics like ourselves admittedly, but pretty insightful nonetheless.
Far from being the credulous simpleton he’s often portrayed as, Swash actually keeps a level head throughout the whole process and refuses to jump to any radical conclusions despite having “evidence” thrust in front of him from various dubious sources. He seems to have a genuine desire to uncover some sort of truth and asks all the right questions along the way, albeit in a voice which is so high it makes him sound like his balls are being perpetually gripped in a vice and every so often struck with a hammer. All of this makes giving him a famous Looking For Ghosts kicking pretty difficult.
Plus, he spends the night alone in some fairly horrific places without too much hysteria, which is more than we can say for the entire cast and crew of Most Haunted (UK) or Ghost Hunters (USA).
He meets some physics, mediums and general believers on his epic quest and does well to prevent himself from laughing aloud at their farcical conclusions, opting instead to sit and nod politely as his mind, presumably, begins to wander. He even watches The Exorcist in the name of research and the image of him clearly straining to understand the plot is endearing. Perhaps he was under the impression it was a documentary.
The highlight, however, comes when he’s asked to spend the night in Edinburgh’s South Bridge vaults, reportedly one of the most active places in the UK for ghostly activity. There is a touching moment when, after a guide shows him around the vaults prior to him bedding down for the night, he lets his guard slip and risks tarnishing his “nice guy” image. Clearly on edge (and understandably so) he almost explodes with angst as he cries: “you’re fucking kidding me, I’m not walking around down here” before he turns to the crew and, with his comical voice cracking with nerves, asks: “I can’t seriously sleep down here on my own…can I?”
He bloody does, though.
It is during this tour that he becomes the unlikely voice of reason, asking his guide why there is a sledgehammer stored in a room which is supposedly swarming with poltergeists. “They’re not that strong,” she offers feebly, “although they have been known to throw rocks.” Suitably reassured, Joe climbs into a sleeping bag and bids the crew goodnight, fully expecting to wake up with his head caved in and bits of his brain plastered all over the walls.
The documentary ends with a sound engineer analysing the footage of his night underground and concluding, rather soberly, that there is a voice on the tape that he can’t explain. Amazingly, the voice in question doesn’t belong to Joe Swash.
Preconceptions aside, Swash gives a very good account of himself and I Believe In Ghosts is an entertaining watch for fair-weather fans of the paranormal, or die-hard fans of Joe Swash. Your minds may not be blown, but your hearts will probably be won.
We’ve not had much luck searching for spooks in London, so we cast our nets further afield to North of the border. Edinburgh to be more precise. Said to be one of the most haunted cities going.
Whilst in Edinburgh, Looking For Ghosts visited the dreaded South Bridge Vaults. We had previously seen videos featuring such luminaries as Boyzone and Joe Swash visiting the vaults for a right old spookfest and we were intrigued enough to visit ourselves.
We were able to visit the vaults as part of the many ghost tours that are available in the city. A host of ghouls inhabit the vaults; the most prominent being Mr Boots, a bawdy ghost that has been heard swearing and is known to pull and tug at visitors.
Other residents of the vaults are numerous. Every source we checked (our tour guide, books, internet sites, YouTube videos) all seemed to have different stories. This made us wonder how many had been made up for the sake of making the vaults just that little more scary. The ghosts of children suffocating in a fire, the spectre of a jealous woman who only touches females, a spooky hound, the ghost of Chevy Chase’s career. Every paranormal aspect is down in the vaults. And it’s very hard to believe any of it.
One, very plausible, explanation for the amount of paranormal activity here, is the steady stream of traffic that flows above the vaults into the city centre. Vibrations from the roads above leak into the rooms below giving off strange sensations and sounds.
Lighting in the cavernous rooms is just right to make you feel like you’ve just caught a shadow moving in the corner of your eye. While sudden drips from the ceiling and noises in the distance are briefly alarming. However, despite the best theatrical efforts of our guide and the squeamishness of some of the other members of our tour, it was hard to find the vaults spooky. After all, it is a tourist attraction and the tour, however interesting it may be, does feel sterile. The amount of ghost stories told down there by the tour guide also become a bit overwhelming. Ghost overkill, if you like.
We’d like to say we broke back into the vaults later that night and were chased around by Mr Boots et al, but no, at Edinburgh Vaults you can only be spooked on appointment courtesy of an offical tour.